Language is different from speech
Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
- What words mean (e.g., "star" can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)
- How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)
- How to put words together (e.g., "Peg walked to the new store" rather than "Peg walk store new")
- What word combinations are best in what situations ("Would you mind moving your foot?" could quickly change to "Get off my foot, please!" if the first request did not produce results)
Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:
- Articulation: How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the "r" sound in order to say "rabbit" instead of "wabbit"). Speech sounds chart.
- Voice: Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
- Fluency: The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).
- Apraxia: Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder. Children with apraxia have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.
When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder. When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder.
Language and speech disorders can exist together or by themselves. The problem can be mild or severe. In any case, a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the first step to improving language and speech problems.